John Cooper, now 76, was finally convicted of the double murderers of siblings Richard and Helen Thomas, and Peter and Gwenda Dixon in Pembrokeshire, Wales in 2011.
But it took more than 20 years before the killer was identified due to lack of evidence.
The story of how police finally cracked the murders is being told in the ITV true crime drama The Pembrokeshire Murders.
The cold case review that began in 2005 finally cracked the case thanks to the advances of forensic science.
Cooper had a long history of robberies and violent assault – and even appeared on television before he was caught.
The most vital clue to solving the double murders was John Cooper’s appearance on the game show Bullseye.
Chillingly, Cooper told host Jim Bowen how he loved living in the Milford Haven area – and even mentioned the spot where the Dixons would later die.
Peter and Gwenda were shot at close quarters by Cooper as they walked on the coastal path after they were robbed.
He also told the host that he had an usual hobby of scuba driving, with Bowen remarking that Pembrokeshire was the ideal location.
Cooper added: “We’ve got deep water where you can swim over mountains and all sorts of things.”
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Retired chief superintendent Steve Wilkins said: “You could hardly make it up. There was Cooper, just a month before the killings, revealing on national television knowledge of the area where the Dixons would be murdered.”
Cooper appeared on the darts quiz show in 1989, four years after murdering the Thomas siblings, and weeks before he would strike again.
Later, footage from the show would be used to match him to witness descriptions.
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The breakthrough of the case came in 2009, when archive footage from Bullseye was obtained.
Officers froze a frame of Cooper standing in the exact same position as an artist’s impression of the wanted killer from the original investigation.
Steve said it was so similar it looked “like a tracing”.
- John Cooper
- Serial Killers
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